Home » Basketball crowd offers a platform to speak about resilience and the Capital City Cancer Classic (L.A. PARKER COLUMN)

Basketball crowd offers a platform to speak about resilience and the Capital City Cancer Classic (L.A. PARKER COLUMN)

A magical moment occurred before Trenton Catholic Prep Academy hosted Cinnaminson High for a Burlington County Scholastic League boys’ basketball game last week.

Miscommunication about start time had fans waiting for officials to arrive. So, instead of allowing people to bury their heads in iPhone readings, TCPA allowed Joe Richardson to make a presentation about prostate cancer and breast cancer.

Richardson, a two-time prostate cancer survivor (go ahead and scream or applaud), a U.S. Marine, correctional officer, Trenton police detective, and Trenton High boy’s basketball assistant coach, rebounded from his health challenges to create the Capital City Cancer Classic, a charity basketball tournament that raises funds for reputable cancer treatment centers, provide scholarships to high school seniors pursuing post-secondary educational opportunities, and support families dealing with cancer.

Richardson used air time to discuss his life journey and to thank Sherri, his wife, and all others who have joined him on this thrilling journey. His message captivated a crowd of fans who abandoned their cellphone activity. Next, Victoria Bland, a 13-year breast cancer survivor who received treatment, love, and support from Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia gave her testimony.

Absolutely amazing — a basketball game that featured real-life stories and requests that fans pursue mammograms, colorectal exams and prostate exams, too. Bland received the Capital City Cancer Classic Conqueror Award.

Here’s Bland in her own words.

“Good Evening Everyone.  I’m here to talk about cancer and how it (affects) people mentally and physically. No one’s story is the same. I was diagnosed with stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma which is a very aggressive type of breast cancer.

“I had a lumpectomy which is the removal of a tumor. I had 25 lymph nodes removed. Had a port inserted in my chest so I can get chemo injections.  Endured five months of chemotherapy. I lost my taste buds. I lost all my hair, eyebrows, eyelashes. and my fingernails turned black. On certain days after treatment, I was so weak it was hard to get out the bed.

“After chemo came radiation five days a week for 6 weeks which turned my left chest area dark black. I hope by sharing my story gives encouragement and inspiration to others. Fighting cancer is a battle, but it’s not a death sentence. Hair and nails grow back. Your skin color comes back. You get your strength back. You get your health back physically and mentally. I thank God I don’t look like what I’ve been through.

“I am a 14-year Cancer Conqueror. I give honor to the greatest physician there is, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I say those who are fighting this disease keep the faith and know that you are never alone. Survivors share your stories. For those who have lost the battle, you will never be forgotten. Ladies get your mammograms. Early detection is the best protection. Family and friends, you are our biggest supporters. Continue doing what you do. Thank you, Joe and Sherri Richardson for allowing me to share my story and for holding this event for four years. You are truly a blessing to the community. Thank you all and God Bless.”

Awesome. Fans applauded. Some were teary-eyed. A basketball pre-game event had morphed into an incredible revival of human spirit. Basketball lost a little importance on this night inside TCPA.

In 2020, CCCCNJ held its first basketball showcase. This successful event resulted in a $6,000 donation to Fox Chase Cancer Center, a $500 senior book scholarship, and the financial and emotional support of a local family dealing with cancer.

In 2021, the Covid pandemic prevented the event; however, in 2022, CCCCNJ donated $7,500 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, awarded three $1,000 senior scholarships, and provided emotional and financial support to another family affected by cancer.

In 2023, $7,500 was donated to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, three (3) more seniors received $1000 scholarships, and another Mercer County was supported and encouraged in their fight against cancer.

While inclement weather canceled the 2024 Capital City Cancer Charity Classic, access the organization’s GoFundMe page to support future initiatives.

L.A. Parker is a Trentonian columnist. Find him on Twitter @LAParker6 or email him at LAParker@Trentonian.com.